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Strictly's Ian Waite on AJ's "tough week" and how Rose's dance opened up a whole other world

RadioTimes.com columnist and former Strictly pro Ian Waite gives his thoughts on Week Eight - from the judges' critiques to the best performances of the night.

Ian Waite Strictly Column
Published: Monday, 15th November 2021 at 4:33 pm

It was a night of shocks and surprises on Strictly Come Dancing this weekend, proving that none of the rapidly declining Strictly Come Dancing 2021 line-up are safe.

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Usual table-topper AJ Odudu finished bottom of the leaderboard for the first time, allowing Rhys Stephenson to nab the top spot by breaking a Strictly record with the earliest ever 40 score for a Charleston.

Here, RadioTimes.com columnist and former Strictly pro Ian Waite shares his thoughts on Rose's tribute to the deaf community, Sara becoming the seventh celebrity to leave Strictly and whether AJ was underscored during her "tough week".

Ian on Saturday’s show

"I'm still sad that Adam Peaty left the competition last week. Such a great competitor who gave it 100 per cent. But the show must go on and so will Strictly Come Dancing!"

How did the Strictly couples do this week?

  • Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin – This dance left me a little bit empty. I do think Tilly has improved her technical skills and posture, but would like to see more movement through the body and expression in the face.
  • AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington – I felt the music was not dramatic enough for a Paso Doble. A few mistakes throughout the dance made it look unsure and lacking in shaping in the flamenco lines. Not her best performance.
  • Dan Walker and Nadiya Bychkova – A little birdie told me that Dan was wearing one of my old tail suits, which is probably why he looks so good! In general, the technique and the glide across the floor has improved. I would like to see more shaping in the body to create a 'banana' effect. That's just bizarre terminology that we say, 'banana banana'!
  • Rhys Stephenson and Nancy Xu – Finally the dance we've all been waiting for! I knew this boy had bags of talent but until now we had not seen it. He looked like he just walked out of the 1920s, fantastic swivel and supreme energy throughout. This was exactly what a classic Charleston should look like, brilliantly executed and choreographed by Jenny Thomas. Not surprised by the four 10s!
  • Sara Davies and Aljaz Skorjanec - The hold was a bit too high for an Argentine Tango, which loses the balance and the fluidity of the leg movements. The ganchos and boleos should have a flexed standing leg instead of a straight leg. So the movement could be sharper and more staccato. Beautiful lines and lifts and Sara gave us 100 per cent commitment.
  • John Whaite and Johannes Radebe – Samba, normally nicknamed The Dance of Death. This was an absolute delight! A joy to watch from the beginning to the end. From botafogos to batucadas, this routine had every samba step in the book. John is obviously naturally talented and I love the chemistry he has with Johannes on the dance floor.
  • Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden – For me this was one of the best technical dances of the night. Fantastic top-line and made a hard dance with very easy. I was particularly impressed how Tom went from open to closed hold so smoothly.
  • Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice – With couples choice choosing a contemporary dance which left not a dry eye in the house. It was very educational, to show the silent moment and how a deaf person would experience the dance. A very powerful and uplifting performance.

Strictly High of The Week

Rose pays tribute to deaf community

Rose pays tribute to deaf community

"I would have to say for me it was Rose and Giovanni! I thought it was very creative to have the silent part in the middle of it and it made people appreciate what a deaf person has to go through and how they would experience various different scenarios. And I think Rose has opened up a whole other world for us and sort of introduced us to disability and and and made it normal, you know so that we understand people like that. And I think that's an amazing thing to do."

Strictly Low of The Week

Strictly's Tilly and Sara were in the bottom two

Strictly's Tilly and Sara were in the bottom two

"That would be Sara for me. I just think that the characteristic of the Argentine Tango was lost in her dance. It was far too much like a normal Tango rather than an Argentine Tango. And I think I much prefer a traditional Argentine Tango and traditional music and this was a bit too out there for me."

Ian’s Top Tip

"I would say think about the character of the dance, and try and lead every technique, every shaping, every step and think about that character and embody that character on the dance floor. And then you will produce the dance that you want."

Ian Answers…

Do you think Sara was the right person to go home considering that she landed in the middle of the leaderboard and wasn't even at the bottom this week?

It's a difficult one because obviously she is such a fantastic ballroom dancer that obviously I wouldn't want her to go in the competition because I love her ballroom so much. But unfortunately at this stage, if you're going to produce a more difficult dance or not such good dance, even though they were in the middle of the leaderboard, I'd say it was very close.

And sometimes when you're in the middle of the leaderboard, you're more at risk than you are at the end. Because if you're at the bottom of the leaderboard, people tend to vote for you to keep you in if you're in the middle they don't because they think you're safe. So it's a very precarious place to be in the middle of the leaderboard. But for me, the dance fell short. And yeah, I think she was the right person to go home.

Do you think AJ was underscored this week for her Paso?

OK, so for me, AJ is the best all round dancer in the whole competition. And I think the expectations for her are very high so the judges and everyone expects her to be top of the leaderboard every week so when she's not as good - as this dance wasn't her best, and it lacked character, it lacked shaping - then the problem is it it is easy to mark her down. Even though it was probably a very good dance, it just wasn't up to her normal level, so then she's going to get marked accordingly.

Strictly AJ dress mishap

Strictly AJ

Unfortunately, we always tend to compare couples to themselves rather than everybody else, you know, are they better than they were last week? That's why it's always sort of better to slowly get better and better and better because if you're if you start off really good, then you've got a long way to fall and you've got a lot to keep up every week and then it's a very difficult position to be in. But I think everybody has a tough dance and a tough week and this was AJ's.

Waite’s Week

"We're very excited because tonight we're in Crawley performing in the Ballroom Boys with Vincent Simone and we've got the lovely Zoe Ball coming to watch us tonight! So that's really exciting. And I know she'll love it because we have a lot of old-school Hollywood classic dances in there, obviously Vincent's Argentine Tango and there's a lot of comedy as well in there. So I know she's gonna love it!"

Strictly Come Dancing airs every weekend on BBC One. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide or visit our Entertainment hub for the latest news. 

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Ian Waite is currently on tour. Visit theballroomboys.com for tickets. 

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